An employee recognition program can be much more than the monthly Employee of the Month plaque hung on the break room wall or a mandatory annual banquet where "Salesman of the Year" is handed out. And it should definitely never be a rendition of The Dundies.

Many recent studies have shown that once employees reach a certain level of security in their salary, increased pay will have only a nominal effect on their performance. In today's me-focused world, employees want to be acknowledged for their hard work and accomplishments often in ways other than salary.

Regardless of the award, the recognition is what's important. A quality recognition program incorporates some sense of ceremony to provide a sense of esteem to the award. I'm not suggesting a full coronation of the Employee of the Month with robes, crown, and a sceptre, but if you have monthly staff meetings, be sure to make that the moment when you identify the person. If you're going to award a custom trophy or an crystal award, take the time to prepare some remarks about the meaning of the award. During the presentation, specifically mention personal and career achievements, and then tie those achievements back to goals and values of the organization. Each career is unique. Each person is unique. Each achievement is unique. Making sure that each aspect of recognition is also unique will guarantee a more successful program.

One pitfall to an award program is when it becomes obligatory. If you're maintaining the program strictly out of office tradition, any awards you give will ring insincere. We all know about "participant" ribbons, and adults are pretty good about sniffing those out. Take the time to develop criteria that is going to recognize their accomplishments on a personal level and that made your organization better.

Whatever you do, avoid any form of the negative award. Awarding someone who comes in last or does something wrong as some sort of scarlet letter to commemorate that failure will alienate you from others, even if done humorously. That sort of behavior can border on harassment or hazing, and it only promises to negatively impact your organization. These are a few programs you might consider.

Longevity Programs

Some people might dismiss this sort of program as a survivor's club. You do want to reward people for more than just staying at one job, but in today's employment market the average worker is predicted to change jobs every few years. There's something to be said about rewarding loyalty. Have a program for 5, 10, and 20-year employees.

Monthly/Quarterly Awards

It could be an Employee of the Month program, but it could also be a monthly contest of some sort. Whatever performance is going to make your organization better, set up a monthly award that promotes that effort.

Annual Awards

These are those banquet awards; The "Salesman of the Year" award. They are usually built around certain criterion that makes it an objective award. Make sure to invite family members and to verbalize the appreciation you feel. The function of the award is more than just motivational. Good employees are working hard to make your organization better and they want that recognition. Find authentic ways of giving them that recognition and an award program will pay you back in ways well beyond the bottom line.